Monday, September 1, 2008

ill wind

Hurricane Gustav is about to pummel the Gulf Coast. There has been a mandatory evacuation called for New Orleans and the entire Gulf Coast region. Yesterday, nearly two million people fled from what is sure to be a bruiser of a storm. Residents of New Orleans have been told that if they choose to stay they are on their own until after the storm. The television is showing scenes from New Orleans, a veritable ghost town. Empty streets save for occasional media and National Guard amid flying debris, wind and rain.

Having just been to New Orleans two months ago on a disaster recovery mission, to say I'm saddened by the potential tragedy of Gustav would be an understatement. Having witnessed, first hand, the challenges that New Orleans faces even three years after the disaster of Katrina, the displaced families, the fallen communities, the fiasco with public schools and hospitals remaining closed and to think that almost three years to the day it may be hit with another hurricane of similar magnitude is overwhelming.

I think back to those news clips of President Bush saying "Brownie, I think you're doing a terrific job!" juxtaposed to my more recent memories of children I encountered while I was in New Orleans, how their lives had been ripped up from the roots and their desperate need to find order and structure out of the chaos surrounding their young lives. I think too about the church communities we, as a group, were hosted by while we were there and how they spoke of holding onto what little dignity they had left. I feel helpless.

Interspersed with reports of hurricane Gustav are the news reports of the republican convention. Opening night ceremonies having been cancelled in response to the storm, republicans are defending the choice of a gun toting, ex beauty queen, hockey mom of five to be a heart beat away from being commander in chief. "Her inexperience" noted one of the pundits, "makes Obama seem like John Adams."

What this says to me is that a man who has claimed to always put country first is now putting a campaign first. A very sad way to end what would have been a grand legacy of public service.

Sometimes it all gets so surreal and disastrous that I feel I can't watch. (I haven't even mentioned the war). Like with everything it comes down to a question of faith. I am certainly powerless over the weather and the result of a hurricane or whether people chose to evacuate or not. Equally am I as powerless over drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the republican candidate's choice for running mate or whether she can put away her breast pump and actually lead the nation if need be.

Taking action, I can do disaster recovery work, I can vote, I may even express my opinions to those who care to listen but I realize that without trust in a Power greater than myself I'm lost. The outcome of a hurricane or an election are far beyond my jurisdiction.

Right now all I have to do is breathe, remain calm and trust that a Power greater than myself will restore the world to sanity.

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